Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Office Space

I loved a recent article in the Chronicle about the impact of office space on student's perception of professors and how professors view themselves and their standing in their school department. I remember my first office as a full-time teacher was a rather nice once with a great window view, lots of bookcases, and a big desk. I had taken over the office of a professor who trying to finish a book while on sabbatical. The office was in a nice location surrounded by other professors in the department, which helped integrate me into the life of the school despite my 1-year status.

My first office at current institution was a miserable library carrel that was only large enough for my chair, a two drawer filing cabinet, and a chair for any students who came by. Most of the time, however, I tried to encourage my students to talk with me in the big comfy chairs outside my office so that there would be more than a foot of space between their knees and mine. I was completely out of the loop, didn't get invited to lunches, and it took me over 1/2 a semester before I realized that there were school meetings I wasn't being invited too, because I had been left off some email list (whereas if I'd been in a building the actually housed my department I might have caught on earlier when I saw everyone walking down the hall to the meeting room).

Luckily, right before the next semester started I was able to move out of the carrel and into the building that actually housed the history department. My office still was probably one of the worst in the building, but compared too where I had been it was a palace. I had room for two small desks, two chairs, I had 2 four-door filing cabinets, and even space for a small fridge to store my sodas. I was in heaven. Despite having no window, I was happy in my space for several years. The only time I started to being to growl about my location, was when people with less seniority than me began to move into offices with windows. Than I began to gripe and growl about the lack of respect the dean had for the history department in general. I even began to make idle threats of conducting a research study that would add up the entire office space by square foot assigned to each department and publish the rankings - figuring that history would come out near the bottom.

I am now happily ensconced in a big office with a great window that looks out on beautiful part of campus. I have 3 desks in the room, 4 filing cabinets, my little fridge, an entire wall of book shelves, and even room to store my bike. I am sure I could be happy here for the rest of my career. At the same time, however, I know that once some of the older faculty members begin to retire and move out of their offices, which have two windows and even more space, I will begin to judge my value to the college based on when I get offered those places.


Ancarett said...

How I envy you the current office you enjoy. I'm in the same space I got when I came on board fifteen years ago this summer. Mind you, the offices are much of a muchness in a 70s hallway-style building, but mine has a few other drawbacks which leave me quite envious of the better layouts of the others. Unfortunately, since it costs the department money each time we move professors in and out (to change telephone extensions, etc.), my only hope of moving is to take a full year sabbatical sometime when there's a space crunch at the university.

Anonymous said...

15 years in one spot? Do they at least paint your office/change the carpet every decade? Or would that be out of the question too?

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